Steven Kardell isn't the complaining type.

For all he knew, he was just drinking a lot of fluids. He didn't want to bother his coach.

But when nurse Dorothy Park learned of the frequency of her 17-year-old neighbor's visits to the bathroom, she thought there might be more behind the annoyance than excessive hydration.

Nine months after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Kardell is back on the basketball court, no longer sprinting to the bathroom at the sound of the halftime horn. The Pleasant Valley senior has settled into a routine and leading essentially a typical - and wildly busy - teenage life.

"It's a balancing act," Kardell said. "It's really not that big of a change. It's just a change in schedule. You have to regulate it.

"If you don't regulate it, it will really kick your (butt)."

No one can pinpoint precisely when Kardell contracted the disease, which affects 1 in 400 people under the age of 20. For an indeterminate amount of time, his athletic and extra-curricular involvement masked the warning signs.

Between basketball, tennis, golf, marching band and choir, Kardell doesn't have a lot of down time. Physical activity, particularly the rigorous variety in competitive sports, burns through the glucose or sugar in the blood stream. That process regulates the body's glucose levels, something a Type 1 diabetic's body won't naturally do.

That's why Kardell and his family didn't fully realize that he even had a health problem until after the basketball season ended last March. Without the exercise, his body wasn't producing the insulin to break down the glucose.

Looking back, the signs were there. Kardell recalls getting dressed for gym class and watching his shorts fall to the floor. Because his body wasn't absorbing calories discharged in excess urine, Kardell had shrunk from 155 pounds the previous summer to 134.

Yet he didn't notice the weight loss until being weighed at the doctor's office. The 21-pound plunge and news that he would have to inject insulin shots daily for the duration of his live left Kardell stunned.

"It caught me off guard," he said. "I didn't really know what (diabetes) was, so I was scared to death.

"I thought it was going to affect my sports and my entire life."

Remarkably, he needed relatively little time to adjust.

Less than two months after his diagnosis, Kardell won a Mississippi Athletic Conference tennis championship at No. 6 singles. He finished his spring with a 15-2 record to the surprise and delight of coach Randy Brockhage.

"All along the way, he was testing his boundaries," Brockhage said. "I have two grandmothers who had diabetes. I figured doubles wouldn't be a problem, but I worried about long matches.

"We found that as long as he was being responsible, there really weren't any limitations."

Kardell developed an easy-going understanding with his affliction, which he dubbed "the beetus." His teammates voted him one of three captains for the upcoming spring season, during which he's in line to move up to No. 3 singles

Over the summer, he built up his strength (and his weight) while honing his multitude of skills.

Last fall, Kardell filled his schedule toting around the euphonium - a cousin to the tuba - in the 270-member PV marching band and playing golf.

In November, he earned all-state choral honors for the first time and has solidified his spot as one of the first guys off the bench for the basketball team.

All while administering at least four insulin injections daily.

"He's a perfect program player," Spartans basketball coach Steve Hillman said. "He's an example for all our youth players, all our kids. We put kids up on a pedestal in sixth grade, and you know what, there are kids that are just kind of grinding their way through.

"It's fun when a kid like that has success."

Already interested in science before his diabetes diagnosis, Kardell has absorbed all manner of information relating to his ailment. Early last spring, he attended a two-day seminar designed to give newly confirmed diabetics a crash course on managing blood sugar levels and life in general.

In his anatomy class this year, he's learned all about the symptoms of diabetes.

If only he'd signed up for it as a junior.

Kardell soldiers on with life, trying always to keep his glucose levels as even keel as his temperament. Between insulin shots and a box of Mike and Ike candy, he's getting by.

"It was the hand that I was dealt, so I'm going to make the best of it," he said. "There's not much I can do anymore but regulate it and keep on going."

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